How does Joan Wheeler view adoptive mothers, as homemakers and seamstresses, and dolls?
Not very well, I’m afraid. No matter what the topic, no matter how it doesn’t relate to her, like transracial adoptions, Joan always manages to speak her hate and anger at being adopted! And, as usual, no one responds to her comments because they and she are irrelevant to the topic at hand.
But, before we get to what Joan has to tell us, I have my own thoughts on this topic…mothers and dolls!
Dolls! play things, models, living, dead, porcelain, painted, idols, effigies, china figurines, girl, boy, baby, sleeping, crying, talking, hair growing, bottle fed, crazy-manic-monster, corn dollies, straw-figures, stick figures, puppets, Muppets, miniatures, life-size, stone, painted, generic, ethnic, modern, ancient, paper, plastic, clay, cloth…
They are all dolls! Humans make dolls, they have a purpose! I’m not going to explain the purpose. I’m just exploring my own experiences and insights, of dolls and mothers and grandmothers and girls and boys and those that had mothers and those that didn’t have mothers.
I don’t recall any particular ‘doll’ during my early life. I guess I may have had a doll or two, as a very young child, but really can’t be sure. These kinds of things, (having material stuff) have never been that ‘important’ in my life. I either had some thing or I didn’t have some thing. I had wanted things but got what I needed and got along just fine, as I was growing up and into adulthood, right up to this moment. Some people, of course, are NEVER happy even when they have everything! I have had ‘stuff’ and lost ‘stuff’ and it is oh so easy to get ‘stuff’, why bother and get all bend out of shape because you had or didn’t have some kind of ‘stuff’!
In my early teens, I had a small collection of dolls, in native dress, from ‘foreign’ countries; in other words not the USA. I was too young to understand the ethnic aspects of other countries. I just found costumes and customs of everyone fascinating. I loved the diversity of the world. I’m just a drop in the huge ocean of people and dolls! There is so much to see and learn. Why be bored, ignorant or angry when you can easily accept life on ‘its terms’ and not on your tiny limited scope of understanding and be pissed off all the time?
I have many memories of my mother and my grandmother (Dad’s mother) and some of them are related to dress making, dressing me as a child and how all that affected me and my sister Kathy. We are about 16 months apart in age; I’m the first, Kathy is the second.
My mother was a HOMEMAKER, long before that term became a ‘negative’ in the world of ‘feminism’ when it was no longer the way of women, to be homemakers. I have my mother’s scrap-book that she created before she was married, in 1946. She was in her late teens when she created this book. She was 20 when she married. Her scrap-book is a reflection of her thoughts and aspirations. It is FILLED with pictures and articles about mothers and children and family life, including mothers and daughters dressing alike. I love this book! We, her children, are a product of our mother and father’s thought and aspirations…as it should be.
Leaving today’s post-modern thinking and nonsense out of this, I want to return to MY childhood, the late 40’s, all of the 50’s and the early 60’s. I was 18, married and a mother, in 1965 so, for me, my child-hood was pre-1965.
My very early years are a jumble of memories, like most people I don’t remember many details, but some things do stick with us. As I said I’m the oldest, then my sister Kathy, then my brother Len (Butch). I don’t recall them as babies; I was only 3 when Butch was born. I do remember my sister Ruth as a baby; that was in 1952 so I was 5. And I remember Joan, when she was Doris, before she was adopted out of the family; that was in 1956; I was 9.
So from an early age I was used to seeing ‘babies’. I remember Momma and Daddy with Ruth, who was on the dining room table, crying and kicking because they were changing her cloths, I guess. I remember when my brother Butch was so sick with a bad cold all wrapped up and coughing; everyone was worried. I remember when our mother put on her coat, just after Christmas, in 1955, and said she loved us and would be home soon; she never did, come home and we never saw her again, until her funeral, March 1956.
There were always a lot kids at our house, between our cousins and friends. Some were our ages, others were older. I always thought my cousin Judy, 5 years old than me, was beautiful and had nice hair. Judy use to babysit us kids when Mom and Dad went out. That was a treat for me because Judy would let me, the oldest, stay up longer even telling mom…’it’s okay Aunt Genie’; that was our mother’s name Genevieve.
Our mother was always busy, in the kitchen, cooking and sewing and cleaning. She made a lot of our cloths. I remember one dress she made for me, a patch-quilt dress that flared out when I twilled around! I loved that dress! In school, I would ask to go to the bathroom, so that I could watch myself in the reflections from the polished floors and on the windows as I turned and turned around in the big hallways. Of course I was only a little thing and the school hallways were not huge at all. I didn’t care. I wanted to see my patch-quilt dress on me!
Us older kids, me, Kathy and maybe Len, had started school at Public School # 40 but then at some point we transferred to Sacred Heart. We were staying a lot with our grandparents when Momma got ill. Grandma worked as a cleaning lady at the home of the owners of Dixie’s Hat store where she also cleaned.
Grandma and Grandpa liked the Lawrence Welk show and of course the Lennon Sisters. I was the same age as Janet Lennon. Grandma would love to get identical dresses for me and Kathy and she dressed us like twins; like the Lennon Sisters. We didn’t like that because we are NOT twins; but we had no say in the matter. The lady that grandma worked for would sometimes give grandma some cloths that her children had outgrown. I remember getting a lovely cardigan sweater; it had flowers and pearls on it and it was so soft and pretty!
After Mom died, Dad married again but a year later our step-mother was placed into a mental institution and we kids were all placed into orphan and foster homes. I had to repeat the 4th grade that year and Kathy and I went to the new school at St Josephat’s. I didn’t like those nuns and priests any better than those at Sacred Heart!
I, of course, can only speak of my own experiences at the foster home. I was ‘lucky’ I stayed in the same place for almost 9 years; I was 10 when I got there and left just before graduation from high-school at age 18 to live with my Dad until I married in July. Kathy and Ruth also spend time with the same foster parents I had. They were nice people and cared deeply for all the kids they took in over decades.
Early on I knew what it meant to ‘be a ward of the county’, to get a ‘clothing allowance’ which apparently wasn’t enough because Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Frank (that’s how they were referred to) always took us kids shopping for extras. I remember an Easter where they brought us nice Easter hats and gloves cause the county’s check wasn’t enough to provide for hats and gloves! They brought us winter coats and boots cause the country’s check wasn’t enough. They also took us on many car trips. I saw most of the New England states while living with them.
Aunt Dorothy always told me to make sure ‘when you wash your face that you wash your neck too’; the same applies to when you put on makeup, remember your neck. My foster parents had two children of their own, about 5 years older than me, and so I was always around high school kids, long before I went to high school myself. I went to drive-in movies and street dances, up the block at the ‘high school’; this was 1957/58, when rock and roll was just starting to rock! I knew what was hip and cool long before I could be hip and cool in my own rights!
When I about 13, I was hanging out with this girl that lived up the street; she was in my 8th grade class. I thought she had it made! Her mother sewed most of her cloths; she had all the fad items too. Can’t recall the year when THE Doctor Ben Casey shirt was IN, this girl had it long before I could have it. Anyway, this girl’s bed room was gorgeous, canopy bed, vanity table with three mirrors; a hair-dryer and she could wear nail-polish and lipstick!
Her mother had taken her shopping for a bra and ‘kotex’. This girl knew all about what to do with the kotex, for she told me after I asked her about them. See, my foster mother gave me a brown paper bag and said to me that soon I’ll bleed ‘down there’ and that I was to use what was in the bag then and wash out my panties myself and never tell anyone. In my bedroom alone I looked at the ‘belt’ and pads and wondered what do with them and why was I going to bleed! Not a clue!
So when this girl friend told me that she got a bra and kotex I thought, great she can help me.
Well that friendship was very short lived, because at some point this girl, in my presence, had an argument with her mother and called her a ‘bitch’. I was shocked, no one talked like that around me and why would she argue with her mother and call her a bad name. I said something to that effect to my friend and she yelled back at me. I then said ‘she’s your mother, you have a mother, I DON’T have one and wish I had a mother like yours!’ After that I was never, to this day, close to women who disrespect their mothers.
My foster parents were ‘good people’ but they were not forth coming with teaching us ‘skills’. I had chores after dinner; washing the dishes and sweeping the floors. I’m a good house-cleaner today because of that, but, I was not taught a thing about cooking, not even how to boil water.
I went to Catholic high school, at the time, all girls in uniforms! We were cookie cutter look-alikes! By this time, I wanted to know about homemaking and sewing and child care. But, it was determined that I was to be in ‘college prep’ and ‘office skills’. I never received any class in home-education or child care. In my junior year I transferred to the new co-ed high school but still couldn’t get home-economics classes. Late in my senior year, knowing I was having a baby and getting married, of course no one knew about that; for in 1965 you could be kicked out of school. I enrolled in and paid for, a series of classes on child care offered by the local church. Ironic, the church taught me about child care while I was a pregnant unwed girl, but the public high school refused to teach me!
Then I became a wife and mother myself and had to learn, as they say, by the seat of my pants! It wasn’t a pretty sight! I do not consider my mother-in-law(s) to be a mother substitute, one was not very nice and the other very close and kind to me, but, a mother-in-law is not and cannot be the same as the mother who raised you. I have no mother; she died when I was nine years old.
I absolutely cannot understand why people have to be so mean to their mothers, be they birth, adoptive, step, or in-law. If you have/had a mother you are so very lucky!
In the following post, of Joan Wheeler’s, we see how she views the woman who cared for her ALL of Joan’s life; the mother died in 2011! Joan still lives in the very house that this adoptive mother and adoptive father provided for Joan, 57 years ago! But all Joan can do is bitch and bitch and bitch. She gives one tiny sentence of ‘regret’, that she never did any sewing for her own daughter, because she ‘didn’t have the time’. Joan didn’t have the time, ever, for anyone, because she was always too busy causing trouble, and writing her life-story, to be bothered with any care for her own children. Her adoptive mother did most of the child care of Joan’s two children.
Joan Wheeler says, in the following, that she ‘didn’t know any other way of life’; obviously she hasn’t wanted to either. So this topic, about ‘race dolls’, gives her another opportunity to spew out her anger about being an adoptee…all she sees is how she feels like ‘a bit of the spectacle of being the little girl Mom dressed up. A living doll. Yeah, yes.’
How pathetic! Joan can only be whatever some post topic is about…Joan can’t get beyond her feelings of being adopted. Joan had a mother for close to 56 years. I only had mine for 9 years and the rest of my siblings were younger still. Joan’s lamenting about her birth mother doesn’t come into this picture here, for Joan only exploits the death of her mother to gain sympathy and do ‘digs’ to her birth siblings. Joan had a mother ALL her life and Joan hates that fact!
The one thing that Joan Wheeler is, is, NOT is a living doll! She is a monster! ….
Sometimes I wonder if I belong here, answering posts as a ‘white-on-white’ adoptee. While whiteness and Catholicism played big inmy adoption, the way I was raised simply did not reflect all of my nationalities or ethnic backgrounds. I grew up, raised by an Italian mother and a Polish-English father. With my white skin, I fit right in.
It was the thing to do back in the 1960s: to make mother-daughter-doll clothes. My aMom was very talented in sewing. So she carefully sewed herself a dress, then sewed me a matching one, and then sewed my doll a matching dress, too. As a child, I was thrilled.
Another fad back then was for mothers to sew Barbie doll clothes. Some even knitted or crocheted outfits. Mine did all three.
And, because we live near Niagara Falls, we’d drive up to the tourist centers and there were Native American dolls. And Scottish dolls. And Irish dolls. So we bought a few.
It didn’t occur to me until after my reunion, when I was told my true mixed-mationalities of German, Polish, French, Scottish, and possibly Native American, that I really didn’t know much of my background. And then, I looked back on the fancy dolls I was raised with, and how they were dressed up, and how I was dressed up, and yes, I felt then like a living doll.
I don’t think my aMom meant it as harm, as perhaps the intent of the raced-dolls you mention in your post. I think that that was how my aMom perceived herself as taking care of her daughter. She loved to sew and show me off. I loved it, too. I didn’t know any other way of life. And this then progressed to Mom sewing my prom dresses. This is something I wished I could have done for my own daughter, but didn’t have the time.
But yeah, I now look at these dolls pictured here and feel a bit of the spectacle of being the little girl Mom dressed up. A living doll. Yeah, yes.
A lot of my feelings and thoughts about loss of motherhood echo Gert’s. – I was one year younger than my stepbrother and my stepmother and I took to each other. She was my mother – for the few short years she was with us and lucid. Jo also was very domestic, even tho she had worked as a secretary in Washington, D.C. – She still had a typewriter and taught me and my stepbrother to type. Jo was a good cook. And she loved to embroider. I remember all the pillowcases in the house had initials on them – for each member of the family. And you used ONLY the pillowcase that had YOUR initials on it. hmmm, now that I think of it, I wonder if she had a bit of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). No matter, she kept a clean house. I had dolls. And so did Kathy and so did Gert. I had forgotten those ethnic dolls until I read about them here. I remember I had a “drink and wet” doll, that I named Marie. I had her until I was in my 20′s and I think I must have just got rid of her. She wasn’t in good condition and not a collectible. I remember either Kathy or Gert had a “Toni” doll – sponsored by Toni Home Permanents – and you could practice hairstyling on her.
I don’t remember my mother at all. And sometimes I get sad about that. In fact, I was just thinking the other day, in regards to the tragedy at Sandy Hook School, all the mothers that lost their children. And going to the school. And how sad it was that their kids were only in the first grade. And I thought of how I had lost my mom. See, I remember my first grade – and I was just telling my husband this when I was thinking about it – I remember learning the song “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” and coloring with those big crayons that were flat on one side. And practicing my letters. I remember a rainy day, and pulling off my rainboots and raincoat and hanging my coat up in the school hallway. And I remember kindergarten too – walking “home” with my brother and stepbrother – but going to my paternal grandmother’s house (who lived halfway between our school and our house). I remember my father taking me to a Halloween party at Sacred Heart. I vividly remember walking on Emslie St. with him. It was dark and I held a small tin Halloween noise-maker. I must have been in a costume, but I don’t remember what it was. And even though I remember these things with happiness – there’s a hint of sadness – because my MOTHER Genevieve wasn’t there. SHE didn’t make a Halloween costume for me. SHE didn’t take me to my first day of school. SHE didn’t take care of me when I had the measles. My stepmother did all that. I remember being so sick with the measles – in bed on the second floor and Jo coming up with a bowl of chicken soup and sitting next to me and cuddling me. She loved me, and I loved her. But where was MY MOTHER?
And I have the same feelings that Gert has for people who disrespect their mothers.
But I will say this – to put to rest any misconceptions that Joan has and had the nerve to put those misconceptions into her book and on various internet forums: We daughters of Genevieve are NOT jealous that Joan grew up with a mother while we did not, and HATE her for it. WE DO NOT AND HAVE NEVER BLAMED HER FOR OUR MOTHER’S DEATH. Not one of us ever said that to her. If we had blamed her – why the hell would we have wanted to be reunited with her?
As Gert said, we three sister were eventually placed in the same foster home. And no, we didn’t have the best of clothes. BUT WE NEVER SAID WE WERE JEALOUS THAT JOAN’S MOTHER SEWED PRETTY DRESSES FOR HER.
I do know she was told by many relatives of my mother that we sisters that we didn’t have the pretty dresses that she did – but it was told her in the context that she should stop bitching about her mother and be dam grateful for what her mother did for her.
So the woman wasn’t Joan’s BIRTHmother!! Jo was not MY birthmother either! And I am dam grateful for all the things that Jo did for me.
a couple of closing remarks – THERE IS NO NATIVE AMERICAN blood in us. Joan just wishes there was because she always had a fascination for the Native American culture.
She didn’t have the time to sew clothes for her daughter because in 1993- 1995 she was too dam busy harassing me. Repeated calls to my employer trying to get me fired (almost daily for six months- hospital adminstration told me this) – letters written to: my fiance and his mother – trashing me, trying to break me and John up. Letters written to: Child Abuse Center in Albany, NY; the mayor of Buffalo; a NY State Senator; the commissioner of our local welfare office – why? to impugn MY reputation. She was telling all these people that I have an arrest and criminal record.
Instead of sewing dresses for her daughter, she was on her computer writing letter after letter to elected officials and MY job – trying to ruin my reputation. We see where her priorities laid – NOT in providing a safe happy home for her children – but in harassing her sister Ruth.
and what the hell is this race stuff all about? why is she sucking up to Trans-racial adoptees? Putting down her “whiteness” – what the hell? I seriously don’t know what the hell to say about that. Is she a Michael Jackson in reverse? I mean, I can see getting some plastic surgery, dyeing your hair, but for heaven’s sake Joan – you’re WHITE – accept it. And all the sucking up to D. isn’t going to make him like you or support you – because he is a bigot and hates Americans – especially Caucasians.